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Philippines Highlights Investment Opportunities On Sustainable Development to Japanese Businessmen

(From top L-R: Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, JETRO Executive Vice President Shigetoshi Aoyama, AJC Secretary-General Kunihiko Hirabayashi; middle: MinebeaMitsumi Director Katsuhiko Yoshida, JPECC Secretary-General Kazuto Sasaki, Special Trade Representative Dita Angara-Mathay, Marubeni Phils. Co. President Shigeru Shimoda, TOEI Animation Phils., Inc. President Iriya Azuma; bottom: DOE Senior Undersecretary Jesus Cristino P. Posadas, Marubeni Former Chairman and Honorary Corporate Advisor Teruo Asada, KEIDANREN Chair Hideyuki Tanaka, Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel V, and MinebeaMitsumi Inc. Chairman and President Yoshihisa Kainuma)

Key officials from the Philippine government’s economic cluster presented the country’s current economic outlook and its programs for sustainable development to top Japanese companies during a virtual economic briefing hosted by the Philippine Embassy in Japan, the Department of Trade and Industry and sponsored by the ASEAN-Japan Centre, with the theme, “Sustainable Development Goals: A Philippine-Japan Partnership.”

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte providing his message during the Virtual Philippine Economic Briefing, and stressed that deeper and broader cooperation with countries like Japan is necessary in order to sustain the momentum of the Philippine economic growth.

In his video message for the virtual forum, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stressed the importance of the Philippines and Japan partnership for peace and development. “Japan is an unrivaled partner of the Philippines for peace and development. It is one of our significant trade, investment, and development assistance partners,” President Duterte explained.

“We welcome Japan’s continued support as we build on our accomplishments and work further to realize our Sustainable Development Goals and 2040 Vision,” said President Duterte.

Urging businessmen to keep the Philippines as a “top-of-mind” investment destination, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel V disclosed that there are currently 964 Japanese locator companies in the country engaged in various sectors that include manufacturing, IT, facilities operation, and logistics, all of which have generated jobs for over 350,000 Filipinos and $9.587 billion worth of exports.

Ambassador Laurel welcomes both the Philippines and Japan business sectors to the briefing and confirms to strive to keep Philippines top-of-mind as an investment destination to Japanese investors.

“Japan continues to be one of the Philippines’ top trading and foreign investment partners, with direct equity investments in the various economic zones in the country, reaching Php11.8 billion in the first and second quarter of this year or with 28.2% share of the total ecozone foreign direct investments,” Ambassador Laurel shared.

He also highlighted the country’s “large domestic market, preferential access to major global markets and a newly passed legislation that gives highly competitive incentives to enterprises in preferred economic sectors” as some of the factors that make the Philippines an attractive and viable destination for Japanese investors.

This year marks the 65th Anniversary of the Normalization of the Diplomatic Relations between the Philippines and Japan, and also the 10th year of the Bilateral Strategic Partnership of the two countries. The Philippines emphasized its commitment to continuity of existing policies affecting Japan’s foreign investors and investments in the Philippines for the years to come.

Aside from opportunities for partnership on sustainable development goals, the virtual forum also tackled pandemic and post-pandemic recovery efforts and programs, opportunities for supply chain diversification, health management, and economic policy continuity.

In his presentation, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez showcased “Philippine Programs for Sustainable and Sound Economic Growth” and stressed that business partnerships with Japan from hereon can be strengthened in the areas of infrastructure development, manufacturing, digital technology, renewable energy (RE) and research and development (R&D) activities. “The Philippines is more than ready for a new and better normal,” the Finance Secretary said.

Fostering inclusive economic growth and balancing this with adequate protection of the country’s natural resources, biological diversity, and overall environmental quality is the Philippines’ strategy for sustainable development. To this end, the government has prioritized the enhancement of foreign direct investments from Japan in fields that include green energy, infrastructure construction, disaster management and industries vital to economic recovery and sustainable growth such as manufacturing, semiconductors and electronics, ITO/BPM, electric vehicles, and life sciences.

In the area of sustainable industry development, Secretary Lopez reported that “DTI is working on the development of a Philippine electric vehicle industry on the back of the country’s natural and human resources. In building our ecosystem, we hope technologies and investments from strategic partners such as Japan will fill the requirements of both upstream and downstream activities.”

“The Philippines is one of the world’s richly endowed countries in terms of mineral resources. Around 9 million hectares or 30% of the country’s total land area, has mineral potential and there is opportunity to develop and responsibly utilize untapped vast mineral resources. Among these are the so-called green metals such as nickel, copper, and cobalt that could be used for downstream industries such as EV battery manufacturing and support wiring harness production” Secretary Lopez remarked.

“The Philippines is also home to an estimated 1.1B metric ton (MT) of copper reserves, reputed to be among the highest in the world. We envision a fully integrated Philippine copper industry that will meet rising demand in growing industrial sectors—like electric vehicle batteries and semiconductor wiring. The same goes for nickel. The country ranked 6th in nickel reserves and 2nd in nickel production. We are now looking at serious investor interest in higher-value adding nickel processing into sulfate and nickel hydroxide, all vital to the production of lithium ion batteries” Secretary Lopez added.

Representing Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Senior Undersecretary Jesus Cristino P. Posadas discussed “Investment Opportunities in Clean and Renewable Energy Development in the Philippines.” “With the country’s attractive regulatory market and available solar and wind resources, the Philippines was ranked as 2nd best investment destination in Southeast Asia by HSBC Global Research,” explained Senior Undersecretary Posadas.

“The Philippines is the sole country among ASEAN 5 to have maintained a stable economic growth of 6% or more for eight consecutive years,” said Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Executive Vice president Shigetoshi Aoyama, who provided a “Comparative Analysis on the Philippine Investment Environment viz. ASEAN Countries” during his keynote presentation.

“A sustainable ASEAN society can be achieved through building hard and soft social infrastructure for greater connectivity, the realization of sustainable growth, use of digital technology, development of human resources, and personal exchanges,” shared Hideyuki Tanaka, chair of the Subcommittee on ASEAN Economic Relations, Committee on Asia and Oceania, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), who also spoke on “Society5.0 for SDGs and Contribution by Japanese Investors.”

Several representatives from Japanese companies with businesses in the Philippines – such as Marubeni Corporation, MinebeaMitsumi Inc., and TOEI Animation Phils. Inc. – also provided testimonials on how their businesses have grown through the help of the government and the advantages of doing business in the country through various legislation and policies.

Marubeni Philippines Corporation is one of the oldest and most important among Marubeni’s network of companies worldwide. It is now involved in the following businesses: power plants, railway and transportation, water infrastructure, transportation, construction equipment; and general trading. Marubeni is developing new and sustainable infrastructure projects in energy development, New Clark City (NCC), railways, and water services. It also launched fintech solutions, specifically AI-powered micro-lending through mobile applications to support Philippine seafarers and MSMEs and digital technology for smart city (New Clark City) energy efficiency and ICT services.

Manufacturing operations of MinebeaMitsumi in the Philippines have transformed it into one of the country’s largest exporters and employers. Chairman Yoshihisa Kainuma said that MinebeaMitsumi’s activities have grown due to the support of the Philippine Department of Finance and Trade and Industry. He thanked Secretaries Lopez and Dominguez for their assistance in investor service facilitation and said, “With strong government support, high quality and cost competitive labor force, my company has already invested over JPY 50 billion in the last six years”.

Toei Animation Philippines is Toei’s sole production base in ASEAN. President Iriya Azuma said that in the future, we hope to work with the Philippines in the co-development of original content and the establishment of an animation education and research facility.

ASEAN-Japan Centre Secretary General Kunihiko Hirabayashi delivered the welcome remarks while Japan-Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee (JPECC) Secretary General Kazuto Sasaki took on the role of moderator during the Q&A session.

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